“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.” ~ Gloria Steinem
Although it was our role to teach second graders, there was hardly a moment in which we weren’t learning from them. We’d chosen this school in order to immerse kids in an in-depth study of Art and Literacy. We gave them several things: time to mess about with materials, specific instruction in Art techniques, and a chance to be inventive and collaborative.
On the very first day one child wrote about what he and his classmates had been working on. “We made birds that came from nowhere in our heads.” Letting their imaginations fly, they’d taken bits and pieces and created original forms. And they’d made them from practically nothing.
Not only did students learn from the Mentor Artists, they seemed to take their cues from themes they noticed in folktales. One of them was teamwork. Children moved easily from their initial independent activity experience to collaborative ones, recognizing that shared thinking was a good thing. One child remarked that without his partner, he wouldn’t have thought of the ideas that they came up with together. “You just might need little things or people to help!” In fact, that’s what they’d realized from The Gigantic Turnip and The Mighty Asparagus.
We observed kids taking every moment of the allotted time. With time came intense focus. Session after session kids added complexity and detail to their compositions, which became their stamps or plates for the final printed collagraphs.
This project, which was a learning experience for adults as well as kids, confirmed our initial beliefs. Children who have extended time, a rich array of materials, and mentors at their sides, can thrive as makers. An integrated curriculum that has meaning for children leads to deeper, more connected thinking and what appeared to us to be total investment. Collaboration, a skill we all need throughout our lives, helps children thrive – and solve the inevitable problem together. One child said it all so succinctly:
“Art is important. If you know Art, you can know lots of things!”